There is a common theme amongst cyclists in Australia – most of them rode bikes as children and teenagers, but put the bike away and forgot about it when they got their first car at 17 years of age.
Mine is not dissimilar. I was a late starter on the bike, not really riding until I was 10 years of age. There were a couple of bikes I used to ride – a blue dragster with a banana seat, and a green ladies shopper type bike with the U-shaped step through frame. The dragster was my favorite, of course. Not only did it look cool, but it was super easy to lean back and pop wheelies.
When I started high school, I was given a flourescent pink bike from Toyworld. It was pretty rough really, heavy steel wheels which very quickly went out of true, a nasty plastic white seat, handlebar grips that gave me callouses, and plastic brake levers. It had U-brakes so it didn’t stop too well either. It was my freedom though. It got me to school, the shops, basketball training, friends houses, and my part time job.
I moved out of home and went to University, and I didn’t take my bike. I had a little green Mitsubishi Colt to drive. Petrol and parking were dirt cheap, even for a poor student. I found though that I was slowly putting on weight, and getting a little lethargic. I started to borrow my housemate’s bike and used it for short trips to the shops, and for recreational doddles around the neighbourhood.
After I’d had the Colt for about a year, I crashed it. I didn’t have the money for another car and only had third party insurance, so I got my old highschool bike and pressed it back into service. It had faded to a white colour by then. I had moved into a different house, and my housemate bought a nice shiny Haro with alloy wheels. Frustrated by my poor brakes, and clunky gears, I also bought a new bike – a Malvern Star Vertigo for $350 which was a great improvement on what I had. For those who want to keep track of inflation, this was in 1999 or thereabouts.
The Malvern Star was dubbed ‘Dizzy’ and I rode it to uni about 3 times a week. Other times I car pooled with my housemate or caught the bus. I used that bike for my first real bike tour, which was a pretty tame doddle through the Rhine Valley (Germany and France). I revisited this tour recently, but that is for another post. Car ownership was on and off for me over my uni years, but that bike was a constant.
Dizzy met an untimely death sometime in 2005 when I got hit at a roundabout by a car that failed to give way. I got out of it with some scrapes and bruises, but it put me off riding for about a year. It was then replaced when I bought a Giant CRX2, for just under $1000. I was getting sick of catching the bus to work. I had a car at that time too, I could afford to have a big gas guzzler because I rode to work and most other short trips were also on the CRX. It was during this time that fuel prices started to seriously increase.
I had a few brief breaks from commuting to my job via bicycle, and every time I stopped, I felt a little unfit. I was constantly frustrated by public transport, the bike was always a better choice. Recently, when I hurt my ankle and couldn’t ride, I hobbled to the train. I got the flu for the first time in years for my trouble.
So I ride to work because:
It takes the same amount of time as public transport, and I don’t get exposed to germs/poor hygiene habits and other things that are often prevalent on the train.
Driving makes no sense at all, it takes the same amount of time, I get no exercise, and have to pay $20 a day for the privilege to park.
It helps me keep an eye on my waistline!
I ride to other places because:
It’s cheaper, there are no parking stresses (for instance at IKEA!), and it’s just fun!